Emma Mishel Prada is gay. But surprise or no, the way the episode disclosed that detail — in a heart-thumping opening sex scene — made it instantly memorable and remarkable.
The gender of her partner, Sam Michelle Badillo , is kept deliberately unclear until the couple moves on to standing sex, when Sam, who is nonbinary, is completely nude.
Of all the sex scenes in Vida — and there are many — this was the one the writers discussed and revised the most. When Saracho was creating the characters, she designed both to be in charge of their sexual power, even though they do so in different ways: Emma prefers anonymous sex that she controls and is negotiated ahead of time, while Lyn wields sex like a superpower and uses it to manipulate her partners.
Everything else might be falling apart, but they know how they want it and what they want. I wanted both of these sisters to be steeped in that. All of these moments were workshopped and everyone went around the room and shared their experiences. It was a lively few days making it as authentic as possible. I think about me as a child growing up. What if my sexuality had been celebrated instead of shamed? The two women had previously met on the set of One Day at a Time when Saracho attended a taping.
Second, I thought it would be so cool to be part of this tradition of powerful queer Latina sex scenes on TV — and then I was like, Oh wait, there is no tradition of that.
Starz requires that all sex scenes be detailed in writing and signed off by all parties before they can be filmed, and the set was closed, with only a small group of essential crew members allowed to stay. Even though the scene was shot over four hours at night, Badillo arrived on set earlier that day so she and Prada would have time to get comfortable with one another. When it got closer to show time, Badillo says she took a lot of deep breaths: I just thought, Focus on what it means.
And then, immediately when I got to set, I had to go to makeup to cover up all the tattoos on my body. And I have a tattoo on my butt. So, within 15 minutes, I was naked and getting makeup applied to my butt. When it came to framing the shots, Cabana looked for ways to enhance the dramatic journey of the characters moment by moment.
If I lowered the camera just enough, it created this phallic shape right below the two of them. The scene also called for a sense of danger. We wanted the audience to wonder where Emma was and if she was putting herself at risk, so those shapes along with the street light tonality contributed to the prohibitive tone.
We had rehearsed it and everything but, you know, fully naked, owww! The first time they filmed that sequence, an alarmed producer rushed on set to make sure Prada was okay. Oh my gosh, does it look bad? After the scene was edited, Saracho showed it to her to make sure she was comfortable with the final version that would air.
I want something offbeat. Que te coma el tigre and she squats on her face.